The eighth in the Jane Austen as detective series by Stephanie Barron, this one begins with Jane’s great grief over the loss of Lord Harold Trowbridge, which occurred at the same moment that they declared their love for one another.
Jane’s grief is her own private torment, her mother and sister never having approved of that friendship which had grown deeper and richer. As this volume opens, Jane and her mother are just moving into a home owned by Jane’s older brother, Edward, who is extremely wealthy, where the rest of the family is decidedly not. The village of Chawton is already disposed not to be kind to the Austens, even more so when one of Jane’s first actions is to find a dead body in the cellar.
In the second major happening in this book, an ancient solicitor from London, a representative of the Duke of Wilborough, shows up at the door asking for Jane. He delivers to her a carved Bengali chest filled with all the journals, letters, diaries and other papers of Lord Harold, second son of the Duke, with the willed request to turn them into a memoir. The solicitor also points out that there have been many attempts to steal the papers.
Jane’s wealthy brother owns most of the village, another brother is a London banker, with a branch in the area, a third the rector at a nearby church, and yet a fourth, the ship captain from the previous novel is also involved. A villager also claims to be the real owner of the village and of Edward’s wealth, and has thus turned the village against them. Another young man of mysterious parentage, Julian Thrace, is resident at several houses in the area, including Stonings, the seat of the Earl of Holbrook, Freddie Vansittart, an old friend of Lord Harold Trowbridge.
It being an English village, everything is tangled up with everything else, and several more deaths are piled on that original first body found in Jane’s cottage cellar. All is untangled, and the book ends with a letter found in the recovered chest – a love letter from Lord Harold, and thus Jane’s peace returns.